With many states honing in on sports betting, California dreams of doing the same are on the horizon. Last week, lawmakers proposed a ballot that would legalize the action next year.
Voters in California would have the chance to change the constitution by November of 2020 in a bill proposed by state Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). This is a nice change of pace, considering there were prior attempts to legalize internet poker, which were shot down in the Legislature via card clubs and Native American tribes operating casinos.
In California, the tribal groups are quite influential in the legislature and have tried to shut down new gambling establishments because they interfere with their gaming relationships with the state.
“I look forward to working with stakeholders in a collaborative effort to help bring this out of the shadows,” said Dodd. “By legalizing sports wagering, we can avoid some of the problems associated with an underground market, such as fraud and tax evasion, while investing in problem gambling education.”
That proposal didn’t get the greatest response from the California Nations Indian Gaming Association.
“Lawmakers should proceed with caution,” said Steve Stallings, chairman of the association. “In short, CNIGA does not support any expansion of gaming in California, including sports betting, until the for-profit, commercial card rooms stop their illegal practices, including constitutionally prohibited banked games. A legitimate discussion on sports betting could then proceed as long as tribal exclusivity is maintained.”
The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, operators of a casino, also have negative views on this.
“This is an important and consequential policy issue that we have to get right for Californians, tribes, and stakeholders. Pechanga looks forward to engaging in the debate to determine the best path forward,” said Mark Macarro, Pechanga Tribal Chairman.
In order to make this work, the legislation would need to get a two-thirds vote to get on the ballot. Afterward, it would need to be approved by a majority vote.
Assemblyman Gray projected that illegal sports betting rakes in about $150 billion per year. With the highest population in the United States, California would stand to make an absolute fortune from sports betting.
Since sports betting was legalized, the state of New Jersey brought in over $3 billion in money wagered. Given how much larger California is, you have to wonder what type of revenue the state would accumulate, in terms of dollars and cents.
In total, eight states have legalized sports betting, and 35 others have to mull over the decision since this time last year.
“Legalization in California would be a boon to the industry,” said Jennifer Roberts, Associate Director of the International Center for Gaming Regulation at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “California would be a premium market for sports betting given its population and sports teams’ presence.”